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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: CAPPS in Princess Anne VA
In Response To: CAPPS in Princess Anne VA ()

The answer to your question is in the transcription you provided.

Elizabeth was not their sister. Since the chancery case was dated 1807, she would need to have been born prior to that date, to be considered the "sister of the half-blood" and heir. Since Elizabeth CAPPS' register stated that she was 20 in 1834, that gives her an approximate birthdate of 1814, seven years after the chancery case was initiated--she was not the half-blood sister mentioned in the chancery suit.

Furthermore, the siblings were: Amy (half-blood), Andrew CAPPS (whole blood), Benjamin (whole blood). The chancery case would have needed to identify the plaintiffs and defendants (all parties involved, and all known or otherwise identified heirs at law). Without viewing the actual chancery case, it is hard to determine how Richard EATON is related to this family, but I'll venture that he was Amy's husband.

The original copy of this chancery case is at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. According to the transcription of the file at the Digital Library on Slavery the file is four (4) pages long. You can request a copy by contacting the library. I don't recall how much they charge, but the charge for copying the entire file is $20 plus. Their webpage is down at the writing of this reply, so I cannot direct you to a link that will supply you with the necessary information.

When you do go to their website, search for a research guide explaining chancery cases, and also take a look at their chancery court database, as it contains the case file number that you need to reference when requesting a copy.

If you can be patient and wait until the beginning of May, I can photograph pages from the file (assuming there are no restrictions from my doing so), and I'll email it to you (please forward me your email if you'd like me to do this).

As for finding more about Elizabeth, you need to look at the county court records (court orders and court minutes) to trace her better. You should start by searching just after 1834, moving forward until you can't find her any longer. She may have died, or may have simply moved to another area.

Then you should look in records prior to 1834, tracing back perhaps to the point when she first registered (possibly not long after her birth in 1814). More than likely, you may find her being indentend/indentured to someone as a child before you find her registering as a free person of color. If indentured, it is likely that a court order survives that not only provides her physical description but other data on her, such as her parents' names.

More than likely, Eliza would have retained CAPPS as a surname, and if she married, it may have been recorded as "Elizabeth Capps alias...[married surname]." In some cases names were recorded in the reverse for married free women of color. For example, if she married a man named John Whitehurst, the record may have identified her as "Elizabeth Whitehurst alias Capps." It all depended on the local area and customs.

If she registered as a child, then she may have retained her maiden name throughout her adult life. This holds true to some extent, up until the end of the Civil War, perhaps even extending until the Reconstruction Era.

You should also check the personal property tax lists, to see if she was recorded amongst those records. And the deeds are also good places to search.

Another thing to look for in the court order and court minute books, is whether or not she ever applied for permission to remain in the state. This is important as it helps you develop strategies for locating her mother (and perhaps her father).

The reason being is that children born of mothers emancipated after 1806 had to apply for permission to remain in the state. Thus if she did apply, this would suggest that her mother was an ex-slave. And this would suggest that you look for evidence of her mother's enslavement, to continue further back with your lineage research.

If you cannot find that application for permission to remain in the state, it suggests that Eliza's mother was freeborn, and thus you would continue to search in various records for her as a free person.

Paul Heinegg's, Free African Americans, online at provides numerous examples of the types of court records and the different ways in which free people of color appeared in court records during the early 19th century. His book leaves off just before the period that you will be looking for your ancestor, so use it as a guide to understand how, when and where free people of color appeared in early records. His research is especially useful in learning how to recognize free people of color in records when they were not necessarily identified by race.

Messages In This Thread

CAPPS in Princess Anne VA
Re: CAPPS in Princess Anne VA

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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